KABUL, Afghanistan

U.S. deaths in Afghan war at lowest level in five years

On the eve of the final “fighting season” before the major pullout of American troops from Afghanistan begins, U.S. deaths have fallen to their lowest level in five years.

The decline is even steeper for international forces: The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force suffered its fewest number of troops killed in December, January and February in seven years. U.S. deaths in those months this winter totaled 17, down from 57 the previous winter.

The main reason for the drop in deaths among the coalition troops, military leaders say, is that Afghan security forces have reached nearly full strength and increasingly are taking the lead in fighting insurgents. Also, measures taken to stop so-called insider attacks by Afghan soldiers and police officers on their foreign allies apparently have been effective.

LONDON

Taco Bell’s British outlets report horse meat in food

Taco Bell is the latest restaurant chain to acknowledge that its food has been adulterated with horse meat, yanking a variety of ground beef products from its three British outlets and issuing an apology to its patrons Friday.

Taco Bell joins a long list of food providers — Nestle, Burger King, Tesco, Birds Eye, Findus and even Ikea — that have had to remove products amid horse meat revelations.

British authorities said Friday that horse DNA had also been found in Birds Eye spaghetti Bolognese and beef lasagna and spicy minced beef skewers from catering company Brakes, which supplies pubs and the House of Commons Food Service.

Taco Bell stressed that its U.S. restaurants do not use meat from Europe and are not affected.

British man behind bars after defying cover-up order

A British man who has spent most of the past decade naked — and in jail — was back behind bars Friday after defying an order to cover up.

Stephen Gough, known as the “Naked Rambler,” was arrested Thursday as he left a court in Southampton, southern England, wearing only boots, socks and a knapsack.

The 54-year-old former Royal Marine appeared at the same court Friday, and was ordered detained until a hearing on March 25.

Since 2003, Gough has completed two naked walks the length of Britain, with frequent interruptions for arrests, court appearances and jail time. There is no law in Britain against public nudity. However, there are laws against indecent exposure or behavior likely to cause “harassment, alarm or distress.”

MEXICO CITY

Tigers, deer seized at ranch that also harbored meth lab

Authorities in western Mexico say they seized two tigers and several deer at a ranch where police also found what appears to be a drug lab.

Jalisco state police said Friday that officers found precursor chemicals in barrels and buckets and boilers that were probably used to manufacture methamphetamine.

Authorities said police found the ranch a day earlier in the town of Yahualica, after people reported that suspicious men were guarding the ranch and that there was a strong smell of chemicals. Police say the men guarding the ranch escaped.

Jalisco has long been considered the hub of the Sinaloa cartel’s meth production and trafficking.

— From news service reports